Adjectives in the Polish language 4.75/5 (4)

Find out everything you need to know about adjectives in the Polish language and their usage, including many practical examples!

This page is part of the chapter “Word classes in the Polish language“.

This article is under development. It may still contain presentational or spelling errors that will be resolved shortly.

Adjectives(przymiotniki)

In the Polish language, as well as in German or English, adjectives describe properties of people, objects, processes and states. You can use attributive (before the reference noun) or predicative adjectives (after the noun), they are a subject to both declination and the comparison. It should be noted that Polish adjectives have all features of gender, cases and numerus (in the attributive and predicative role), since they are always based on the reference noun.

Examples:

Mały chłopiec płacze (m).
The small boy cries.

Mała dziewczynka stoi przy oknie (f).
The small girl stands near the window.

Małe dziecko śpi (n).
The small child sleeps.

Małe dzieci bawią się (Pl.)
Small kids play.

Mali chłopcy nie chcą spać (refer to Masculine personal).
Small boys don’t want to sleep.

Adjectives after the nouns follow the same declension rules as these before nouns:

Ten stół jest stary.
This table is old.

Ta szafa jest stara.
This wardrobe is old.

Moje auto jest stare.
My car is old.

Oni przyszli do domu zmartwieni.
They came home worried.

Declension of adjectives (odmiana przymiotników)

The declension of adjectives follows the same rules as pronouns. Such situations allow to speak about two groups of adjectives:

  • adjectives whose stem ends with a soft consonant like k or g
  • all other adjectives.

Nominative (mianownik)

When it comes to the masculine, adjectives with soft stem follow declension rules for the suffix -i, while adjectives with hard stem follow the rule for -y. The feminines and neuters are treated the same way as the noun -a (f) or -e (n). The plural form is created correspondingly: soft-stem ends with -i/-e, the hard-stem with -y.

The table below will demonstrate this:

Masc.Fem.Neut.Pl.
dobry kolega (good friend)szeroka ulica (wide street)małe dziecko (small child)dobrzy synowie/dobre córki (good sons/good daughters)
wysoki dom (tall house)młoda kobieta (young woman)duże okno (large window)ładni chłopcy/ładne dzieci (pretty boys/pretty children)
drogi samochód (expensive car)mała dziewczynka (small girl)trudne zadanie (difficult task)starzy ludzie/stare domy (old people/old houses)

Overview of other cases (deklinacja przez pozostałe przypadki)

From now on we’ll only cover the declension of adjectives, thus repeating the declension of nouns (refer to the chapter on grammatical cases) is strongly recommended before further reading. In contrast to the nominative, in other cases one can hardly find any analogies.

SingularPlural
MasculineFeminineNeuterMasculine personalOther genders
Nom.-y/-i-a-(i)e-i
Gen.-(i)ego-(i)ej-(i)ego-ych/-ich
Dat.-(i)emu-(i)ej-(i)emu-ym/-im
Acc.=Gen./Nom.-(i)e= Genitive=Nominative
Instr.-ym/-im-ym/-im-ymi/-imi
Loc.-ym/-im-ej-ym/-im-ych/-ich

When declining adjectives, special attention should be given to the singular and plural forms of the accusative. Sometimes it equals the genitive case, sometimes the nominative. This difference is related to the distinction of the masculine into animate and inanimate masculine in the singular, as well as personal masculine and other genders in the plural form. Detailed explanations are covered in the chapter grammatical genders in the Polish language.

Examples:

Małych dzieci nie ma teraz w domu. (Gen. Pl.)
The small children are now away from home.

Dziewczynka przygląda się małemu pieskowi. (Dat. Sg.)
A girl looks at the small dog.

Mój brat ciągle jeździ nowym autem. (Instr. Sg.)
My brother drives a new car again.

Exceptions (wyjątki)

In the Polish language, phrases often contain shortened forms of some masculine adjectives. But they appear only as the predicative and can be easily replaced with the “normal” long forms.

The most common examples include the following adjectives:

Short formLong formTranslation
ciekawciekawycurious
pełenpełnyfull
świadomświadomyaware
winienwinnyguilty
zdrówzdrowyhealthy
pewienpewnysure
wartwartyworthy

Examples:

On jest wszystkiemu winien / winny.
He is guilty of everything.

Nie jestem pewien / pewny, czy dam radę.
I’m not sure if I could do it.

Jestem ciekaw / ciekawy, ilu gościu jutro przyjdzie.
I’m curious how many guests will come tomorrow.

Comparison of adjectives (stopniowanie przymiotników)

All Polish adjectives are comparable, just like in English. The initial form to create comparisons is the basic one, the positive. The comparative is formed by adding the suffix -szy /-ejszy to the positive, but there are also many deviations, exceptions and phonetic changes occur.

The comparative ending with -szy

This comparation is created from adjectives ending with a consonant, except for the gender conditional suffix -y /-a /-e which is also added to the comparative form.

Examples:

Masculine
Positive (basic form)Comparative
słaby (weak)słabszy (weaker)
bogaty (rich)bogatszy (richer)
młody (young)młodszy (younger)
Feminine
słabasłabsza
bogatabogatsza
młodamłodsza
Neuter
słabesłabsze
bogatebogatsze
młodemłodsze
Plural
Masculine personalOther genders
słabsisłabsze
bogatsibogatsze
młodsimłodsze

Adjectives with their stem ending with g, ł, n change as follows:

  • g -> ż
  • ł -> l
  • n -> ń

Examples:

  • drogi (expensive) -> droższy (more expensive)
  • tani (cheap) -> tańszy (cheaper)
  • miły (nice) -> milszy (nicer)

When the vowels a or o preceed the final consonants of the adjective’s stem, it changes to -e , as in the following examples:

  • biy (white) -> bielszy (whiter)
  • czerwony (red) -> czerwiszy (more red)
  • wesy (cheerful) -> weselszy (more cheerful)

In contrast, in the penultimate syllable of the basic form (positive) will change to in the comparative, and -c at the end will be replaced by -t: gorący (hot) – gor ętszy/sza/sze.

Note that there is a group of adjectives ending in their basic form with -oki, -eki, -ki. These suffixes are skipped while creating the comparative. -n or -s before the suffix are changed to -z or -n. However is replaced by .

The most common examples:

  • daleki (distant) -> dalszy
  • brzydki (ugly) -> brzydszy
  • cienki (thin) -> cieńszy
  • szeroki (wide) -> szerszy
  • wąski (narrow) -> węższy
  • miękki (soft) -> miększy
  • ciężki (heavy) -> cięższy

The comparative ending with -ejszy

This comparison rule usually applies to the adjectives whose basic form ends with more than one consonant. Only one type of consonant change occurs in this group:

  • s -> ś
  • r -> rz
  • n -> ni

Examples:

  • dry (wise) -> mądrzejszy
  • ładny (pretty) -> ładniejszy
  • jasny (light) -> jaśniejszy
  • ciey (warm) -> cieplejszy*
  • czysty (clean) -> czystszy / czyściejszy* (two forms allowed)
  • tłusty (fat) -> tłustszy / tłuściejszy* (two forms allowed)

Some adjectives still apply to the first comparation rule, despite ending with two consonants (apart from those mentioned above with both forms allowed). They have the extension -szy:

  • prosty (straight) -> prostszy
  • twardy (hard) -> twardszy
  • soczysty (juicy) -> soczystszy

Exceptions (wyjątki)

As always in Polish there are many irregular, special forms of comparation. Here are the most important of them:

  • dobry (good) -> lepszy (better)
  • duży (big) -> większy (bigger)
  • lekki (light) -> lżejszy (lighter)
  • zły (bad) -> gorszy (worse)
  • mały (small) -> mniejszy (smaller)

Superlative

Unlike the comparative, the superlative in Polish is very simple. It is created by adding the prefix naj- to the comparative form of all adjectives belonging to groups described above without any exception. It’s one of the few simple rules in the Polish language.

Examples:

PositiveComparativeSuperlative
Sing.słaby (weak)słabszynajsłabszy
bogaty (rich)bogatszynajbogatszy
mądry (smart)mądrzejszynajmądrzejszy
dobry (good)lepszynajlepszy
mały (small)mniejszynajmniejszy
brzydka (ugly)brzydszanajbrzydsza
Pl.ładni (pretty)ładniejsinajładniejsi
starzy (old)starsinajstarsi

Overview

Comparative:Positive + -szy / -ejszy
Superlative:naj- + comparative

It is important to remember that all comparable adjectives always have gender and declension relative endings, even though many examples shown above were created on the basis of masculines to demonstrate comparison rules.

Examples:

Moje dziecko jest najzdolniejsze (neuter, nom.).
My child is the most talented one.

Chociaż nie było najlepszego tortu, impreza i tak była udana (masc. gen.)
Although the cake was far from the best, the party still was very well.

Od tygodnia czekam na moich najukochańszych rodziców (pl. acc.).
I’m waiting for my dearest parents for a week now.

Chociaż miała tańszą sukienkę niż jej koleżanki, wyglądała pięknie (fem. acc.)
Although she wore a dress cheaper than her friends, she still looked beautiful.

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